Image of the August 2014 Wilderness Magazine Cover Read more from the
August 2014 Issue
Home / Articles / Pigeon Post

Pigeon Post, August 2014

Letter of the month

Backcountry Hut Pass takes a hit in the north

Northern North Island trampers will be dismayed to learn that the new Pahautea Hut on Mt Pirongia will be placed within the online booking system and Backcountry Hut Passes cannot be used and that Ketetahi Hut in Tongariro National Park will not be replaced (Walkshorts, June 2014).

DOC ranger Bruce Postill says the fee for Pahautea will be $15/night, but says nothing about BHPs, or what arrangements his office is making to accommodate BHP users. In trying to satisfy one group of users, DOC can alienate other groups. I’d have liked Bruce to say was that his office has options to accommodate the hut pass in the region’s booked huts – such options are available in other DOC regions.

With Pahautea in the booking system, there is now one hut out of 13 in DOC’s northern North Island region where the BHP can be used – hardly an equitable situation when compared with what is available in other regions of the country.

Of equal concern is the decision not to replace Ketetahi Hut. Obviously, with the threat of volcanic activity, it can’t be sited in its current position, but comments that there are no plans to build another hut elsewhere seem premature when the Tongariro National Park Management plan states: ‘Ketetahi Hut will be re-sited when it becomes due for replacement … the decision to relocate the hut … was adopted as an outcome of the department’s national Recreation Opportunities Review 2004.’

DOC needs to tell us what it has done to investigate alternative sites and what the results were, thus honouring the integrity of the management plan.

– Barbara Morris, Taupo

Tent troubles

My wife recently walked the Te Araroa Trail with me acting as support crew. On the occasions she wasn’t hidden far away in the backcountry and we could meet up, we used a Kathmandu Taku tent to sleep in.

We had spent a while picking a suitable tent as this would be Linda’s comfy tent stop when she could meet up with me.
But after perhaps erecting the tent 20 times and then in the South Island, we had poles break on four different occasions in very light winds. I was next to the tent one time when, crack!, one just decided it was time to let go.

I went to Kathmandu in Blenheim after the first two broke, where the manager was very helpful and gave me several spare pole sections.

I called into Kathmandu head office in Christchurch on two occasions and they eventually accepted that the tent was faulty and we finally got a refund, shame that we were left without a tent.

I emailed them two weeks ago and no response, shame about that also.

Just be aware that this type of problem can occur and I have heard of other Kathmandu tents having the same problem

– Evan Pugh, e-mail

Wilderness invited Kathmandu to respond to Evan’s letter:

The team here at Kathmandu take great pride in designing and developing quality products, so we were extremely disappointed to learn of your experience. Our sincere apologies for any inconvenience to you and your wife.

We understand from our Customer Service team that they endeavoured to address the problem by providing you with replacement poles and a fly. However, as the tent was by then more than two years old and had been replaced by a new model, we were unable to source a replacement Taku, so a full refund was provided. If you’re not fully satisfied with this outcome our Customer Service team would be very happy to respond to your query (

We are always grateful for any feedback on our products to enable continual improvement. Please be assured this issue has been elevated to all concerned parties to ensure we do all we can to avoid this happening in future. Thank you for taking the time to get in touch with us directly and to write this letter to Wilderness.

– Ian Babington, Kathmandu Customer Service Centre Manager

PLBs overseas and New Zealand

Lloyd Klee makes some interesting points about foreign-bought PLBs, EPIRBS, and ELTs (Pigeon Post, May, 2014) that I feel need to be expanded on as they could potentially endanger people.

Beacons transmit signals to the International Cospas-Sarsat Programme, a global network of search-and-rescue satellites linked to mission control and rescue coordination centres in 26 countries including New Zealand. It would be a poor system if travellers were expected to purchase a separatee beacon for every member country visited. The arrangement mandates that New Zealand beacons work in other member countries, and that foreign beacons work in this country. It would be a tragedy if a reader went adventuring overseas and left their New Zealand PLB at home thinking it wouldn’t work only to need it and then pay the ultimate price.

Distress signals from foreign PLBs go to the country of registration’s search-and-rescue headquarters first, leading to a short delay while the signal is relayed with the owner’s registered emergency contact details. It’s important to consider where a beacon will be used most, but it’s just as important to understand that carrying any modern beacon at all vastly improves the chance of survival in an emergency.

Beacons are designed and manufactured to the high standards required of a device intended to save lives. They are robust and batteries must have a minimum five-year shelf life, so warranty support seems less of an issue.

If I’m in trouble, the last thing I’ll be worrying about is a refund for a faulty PLB. But, I’ll be feeling really silly if I’m in trouble and don’t have my PLB because I thought it wouldn’t work overseas.

– Brody Radford, Auckland

A triumph for common sense and the environment

Thumbs up to Nick Smith and his team for negating the Milford monorail proposal.

If you have never visited the areas of Glenorchy, Kinloch, Gunns Camp, then move this to the top of your bucket list before the dollar-motivated visionaries get their way. These locations are the gateway to the finest tramping and sightseeing in New Zealand. The Routeburn, Greenstone Caples, Hollyford, Dart-Rees, Cascade Saddle and Milford tracks are all here. For the tramping gurus, there’s the Rock Burn, Theatre Flats, Lake Nerine, and the mecca that is the Olivine Ice Plateau.

Superlatives for this area are many: quaint, raw, remote, challenging, and serene. I have visited a number of times and will be back early next year. Hopefully I’ll share a brew with you.

– Peter Vella, email